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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
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Old March 18th, 2010, 08:05 AM   #1
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EX1 V's Z1

Here I sit with a question that I'm hoping most of you can help me with.

I currently use a Sony Z1 for all my work and am at the point where I can finally afford to purchase an EX1-R.

So, is it all its cracked up to be. Am I going to be experiencing the WOW factor here. The footage should be noticeably better Im assuming?

I've heard the comparison as being a toy camera to a professional camera.

My mind is made up but would feel a whole lot better with some encouragement.

Cheers, Guys & Gals..
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Old March 18th, 2010, 09:27 AM   #2
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I used the Z1 the minute it came out and remember being impressed with it, but it was also the first HD camera I had that I could carry that easily and use on shoots of nearly any budget...

The EX1 is not built by the same group at Sony that the Z1 is... The Z1 is the Pro/Prosumer (or whatever they call it internally) group and the EX1 has a CineAlta badge because it was designed and built by the folks who brought us the F900, and all the subsequent CineAlta series cameras and camcorders. When the EX1 first came out, my first reaction to the marketing was that Sony had sold out their 'CineAlta' brand to try to get a cheap camcorder into the race with the HVX200 camera in the 'indie film' sort of market space.

I was simply wrong.

I remember thinking what a great value the Z1 was when it came out...the EX1, now EX1R dwarfs the value for the money in a Z1 in my opinion...and I don't have a negative opinion of the Z1 at all.

The dynamic range of this little camera defies its price point completely and the image aesthetic is definitely not 'Sony ENG Video camera' poppy. It's more F23 than it is Z1.

I have an EX1 and I'm shooting material in a wide range of projects that range from broadcast-bound documentary to high end industrial to performance automotive. This thing just makes me happy every time I shoot with it, it has paid for itself very quickly, and the EX1R is an improvement on that...

Are there higher-end cameras that outperform the EX1(R)? Sure there are... I use many of them when I need them for a project. I shoot with Panasonic Varicam series cameras, F900s, SI motion raw cameras, etc, etc... However, I feel that if you're going to own a camera and you want to keep your investment contained so you can recoup it quickly and be as versatile as possible...the EX series of cameras are just very solid investments.

Keep in mind that I'm not much of a cheerleader for stuff in our industry. I use what I use and even the equipment and software choices I make have their problems and drawbacks...

I just think that the EX series cameras tend to generally deliver on their promises based on their pricepoint.

I'd say that unless the media recording scheme is unacceptable to you or the post pathway is an issue, the EX1R would likely be a purchase you wouldn't regret, but (as with all camera gear) getting a demo under conditions of your choosing if you have a dealer somewhere close wouldn't hurt.

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Old March 18th, 2010, 09:40 AM   #3
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I own both. I use both side by side. The Z1 is a fine camera but the EX1 is worlds apart. The EX1 makes the Z1 look very soft and compressed in comparison, even when shooting in HDV 1080i mode.

The only place where the Z1 wins is in the weight stakes. The EX1 has rather poor weight distribution compared to the Z1 and if I know I will be doing extended handheld work I sometimes opt to use the Z1 on a Fig Rig.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 12:34 PM   #4
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Tim's summary is the best summary I have seen on the topic here over the past year or so.

To the original poster... You will be moving, obviously, to solid state recording, so there will be some other expenses and the requisite time spent adjusting to changes in your workflow.

I still have my Z1 as a backup camera but am contemplating selling it off.

You will not regret the move. Lots of new production tricks will be added to your arsenal. Among them real slowmo/overcranking and the ability to do long form continuous shooting.

You won't regret the move if you decide to do it.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 12:34 PM   #5
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I can second what Marcus said. Without shoulder mount, EX1 is a very bad guy in the hand. But...

no tape... (!!) - no hassle, the solid state recording and file based workflow is priceless

PQ - I own the EX1r since January and still there is no day without wow-ing

versatility - overcrank, undercrank, time lapse...

record in most any format you wish...

Get one and you will never regret. (I am not paid or employed by Sony)
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Old March 18th, 2010, 02:38 PM   #6
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You can notice the HUGE difference between the two in your first test shoot if you just playback the EX1 on an HDTV from the component outputs. The Z1 footage is always littered with blocky artifacts, even from a simple hand wave in front of the lens. On the EX1, you have to look hard for any artifacts.

Be sure to get a Hoodman LCD magnifier, although that will also improve your Z1.

The only Z1 pluses I'll mention are the lighter weight and more responsive auto-focusing. If you shoot in manual focus but use the Push-Auto button, the EX1 is much slower to respond.

I just sold my Z1U for good. If you're worried about maintaining your Sony SD/HDV tape collection, buy the very portableSony HDV video walkman deck for $1000 if you don't already have a deck.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 03:18 PM   #7
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To lay the groundwork: I love my Z1. Jumping from the VX/PD was amazing - full 16:9 and HDV, same weight, price, batteries and ergonomically simply miles and miles ahead of the old 4:3 cam.

I'm pretty impressed with what it can deliver on DVD as well. Upscalled into my 46" TV it's taggeringly good for the price, and I feel no qualms when I hand over films to my clients.

OK, so last year I shot two weddings on an EX1. The weight increase was immediately obvious, though I love the swivelling handgrip. The top screen was nowhere near as good as the Z1's in bright sunlight (note Gint's recommendation) but it's far sharper. In a lot of respects the EX is easy to get to grips when you've been a Z1 operator.

I assumed that once down-converted and burnt to DVD that would be the lowest common denominator; the great leveller. Who was going to see the difference between Z1 and EX footage once on DVD and upconverted into a big TV?

Wow, was I in for a surprise. The EX footage was very noticeably better in all departments, and in low light was smooth and quiet where the Z1 was manfully struggling. On top of that the differential focus was most noticeable too - aiding picture composition and easing MPEG2 compression as a side effect. Go for it David.

Have I? No, my 0.52x aspheric wide-adapter won't work on the EX1-R and I can't (yet) accept the rather feeble wide-angles on offer for this fine camera.

tom.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 05:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Hardwick
I assumed that once down-converted and burnt to DVD that would be the lowest common denominator; the great leveller. Who was going to see the difference between Z1 and EX footage once on DVD and upconverted into a big TV?
Well, one big difference is that the EX will shoot in 720p/50 mode - the Z1 won't.

If the main market is going to be standard definition, 720p/50 is a better starting point than 1080i - it's a simple frame to field conversion. Start with 1080i and it involves de-interlacing before downconversion.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 09:55 PM   #9
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To me, going from miniDV tape capture to solid state SxS memory alone was worth the upgrade. But the image quality... When I saw the first test footage I shot with my EX1 my jaw dropped. It was sooooo much better than what the Z1 was delivering (and I had thought that was very good) that the upgrade was the best move I made in years.

The camera took much more time to get acquainted with that any HDV camcorder I have ever used, but once mastered, the EX1 will turn out consistantly great images.

Don't use AF, it is is too slow. Use full MF and peaking. Get a Libec zoom controller too.

If I am not mistaken, the EX1r now does SD. I haven't shot SD since going HDV (why?) so the presence or absence of SD on the camcorder is of no consequence to me. The EX1 has no SD option, but I thought I read Sony put the option back on the EX1r.

And if I have been reading the forums correctly, the recent firmware upgrade has improved, even further, the stability of SDHC media for data acquisition. So SxS is not your only media option.
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Old March 19th, 2010, 02:08 PM   #10
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My wife bought the Z1 in 05' and it was her main camera until last year when she bought the EX3. She had some initial qualms with the Z1's control layout but she came to really love the camera and shot many many hours of footage with it over the years - Both dramatic narrative and event videography. The EX3 has given her a quantum leap in terms of quality as well as providing her with more options in lighting. She has qualms about the control layout (as she did with the Z1) but she truly loves this camera.

Last night she had an outdoor scene to shoot on her flyer and could not add any lights into the scene - The existing lighting was parking lot lights and a street light. She was leading an actress while operating Don Juan. This was her first attempt at using the EX3 in low light. Looking at the footage today, it is beautiful. There is no way she could have pulled this off with the Z1.

Bottom line - No regrets...

I should add that the motivation for her to get the EX3 was that the Z1 was starting to exhibit some weird digital artifacts on some shots. And it was not a tape error as she uses an FS5 HD on the camera and always ran tape as a backup and the artifacts were showing on both media. After a shoot where the only usable take had this artifact she bit the bullet.
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Last edited by Shaughan Flynn; March 19th, 2010 at 03:00 PM.
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Old March 19th, 2010, 04:04 PM   #11
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Of course, the Z1 still has a big advantage when a client wants a SD DV tape handed over at the end of the days shooting. They don't want a DVD, blu-ray, hard disk or whatever, they just want something they know will work without hassle. For that kind of work the Z1 still rules and will do so until everyone has finally accepted that tape is dead. Hence why I don't really want to part with mine as yet.
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Old March 19th, 2010, 07:43 PM   #12
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I bought the Sony GV-HD700 portable video walkman to maintain my Z1 library. If you don't need to hand over the tapes at exactly at the end of the day, perhaps this $1000 device will help make the SD tapes you desire.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 07:58 AM   #13
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Everyone else has pretty much taken the words out of my mouth. I've been using a Z1 exclusively for the past 4 years and got an EX1 last summer. There is just no comparison, as soon as you pick it up you realize you're playing in a different league.

Now this doesn't take anything away from the Z1 - I still use the company Z1 to shoot archive video of all our operas and get "ooh's and ah's" when people look at the footage on an HD monitor. It's a great workhorse in the finest PD-150 tradition, and I am very comfortable with it. It will also make the EX1 feel very familiar when you pick it up.

One little touch that I especially like on the EX1 is the format of the on-screen data displays. They use a small font that is still quite readable while not intruding on the image too much, and you can choose only the data you want shown. The Z1 (and other Z-series) cameras use a big, clunky font and icons that really clutter the screen. This has always bothered me on my other Sony cameras as well (VX-2000 and PDX-10).
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Old March 20th, 2010, 09:18 AM   #14
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Interesting observation about the on-screen spam font size Boyd. A big change from the Z5 to the NX5 is the on-screen font, the former is PD/Z1 huge, the NX5 is small and slim in comparison.

With the Z1 you have the menu option of doubling the font size on the item selected - that's not now available on the NX, though I don't know about the EX.

I asked a Sony rep about this, saying Sony's consumer base is ageing and really needed big clear fonts, preferably well clear of the 16:9 frame as Panasonic does with the 151. He agreed.

Another plus for the Z1 (in my book exclusively it seems) is that the camera really lends itself to being held by the top handle. My left hand can cradle the weight of the camcorder and my left thumb can roll the beautifully damped iris wheel to smoothly change the aperture.

The EX1 has been built with different ergonomics, and you have to remove your left hand (which was supporting the weight of the camera) to turn the iris ring around the lens. Being historicaslly where the iris ring has always been doesn't make it right. Same with the side screen - it's always been there till Sony's top screen proved how illogical the side screen position was.

tom.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 02:26 PM   #15
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I would have to agree that the EX1 ergonomics are challenging. It's heavy and not well balanced. But I am willing to pay that price for the amount of control and the image quality that it gives me.
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